History through Literature – Book Lists for Units on China, Middle Ages, American Revolution and More!

When we are doing history units, I’ve always tried to bring in a rich selection of literature. Historical fiction is a powerful way to make readers feel more connected to that period.

Johnny TremainA book like Johnny Tremain (affiliate link) has a rich cast of memorable characters that helps the period, in this case the American Revolutionary period, come to life.

We have brought in a wide selection of books for most every history unit we’ve covered from Ancient Greece to the Civil Rights Movement.

Historical fiction has been used by authors to try to sway public opinion and make them aware of issues… even contemporary issues.

uncle-toms-cabinFor example, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, touched readers of the mid-1800s and made them aware of the evils of slavery.  Today, many high school and college students read and discuss this book both in the context of when it was written and as a work of literature. (I mention this because we read the first portion of the book aloud together earlier this year when we did our Slavery and the Civil War Unit.)

Similarly, The Jungle, exposed the horrors of the meat packing industry from the turn of the century (1900s). It showed some of the dangers workers faced (losing limbs, standing for hours in pickling juices, being forced to work long hours) and the disgusting conditions in which meat was produced (rotten meat being made into sausage, rats and vermin being added in, rat poison finding its way into food).  This book led to the formation of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906). And again, this historical fiction is still read and discussed by many. I hope to read this with the kids when we cover 20th century history.

There are a lot of children’s books that help kids relate to the historical periods they are studying.  Today I thought I would share some of the units and book lists we have used.

How do you find suitable historical fiction? I find those books/selections by looking through the Sonlight catalog, and using book suggestions from Story of the World, History Odyssey, or Beautiful Feet. I’ll also do searches of our library catalog, Amazon, and google itself. Plus, I often ask my homeschool friends! 🙂

Here are some of the history units we’ve studied and the books we have used in the elementary years:

Ancient Greece Books for Kids

Middle Ages Hands-On Projects



Civil Rights Books for Kids

Australian Books for Kids

And just on the topic of books, here are some other books we have loved over the years:

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